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In brief: Iranian exile group off terrorist list

Washington – The small but influential Iranian exile group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq will be removed from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations, a U.S. official said Friday, following a high-priced lobbying campaign claiming the controversial group had renounced violence.

The group’s advocates on Capitol Hill welcomed the State Department decision, which was conveyed to Congress in a classified letter. But outside experts warned that legitimizing an organization that carried out deadly attacks in Iran years ago could give Tehran a propaganda boost as Washington and its allies try to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

Members of the group, known as the MEK, portray themselves as Iran’s main political opposition, but they have little apparent support in Iran.

The MEK has been based in Iraq since the early 1980s, when it sided with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in an eight-year war that killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians.

The U.S. government added the MEK to its terrorist organization list in 1997, but members were disarmed by U.S. forces after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The MEK filed a lawsuit challenging the terrorist designation, and a federal court ruled that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton must decide by Oct. 1 whether to remove the group from the list.

The apparent resolution comes six days after the MEK abandoned a former military base in eastern Iraq to avert a showdown with Iraqi authorities, who view the group as a dangerous nuisance.

Pelosi favors ending payroll tax cut

Washington – The Social Security payroll tax cut should be allowed to expire at the end of this year and lawmakers should turn instead to overhauling the entire federal tax code, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday.

The 2 percentage point reduction in the 6.2 percent payroll tax, first enacted last year, had been a major element of President Barack Obama’s proposals to rejuvenate the economy. The effort to renew it for 2012 prompted a prolonged battle with Republicans last winter, especially in the House, and resulted in an eventual GOP surrender and a major victory for the president.

There has been little talk among Democrats about reviving the payroll tax cut yet again for next year, and Obama did not propose renewing it in his 2013 budget. Even so, few Democrats until now have said openly that the measure should be allowed to lapse.

Clash kills Israeli soldier, 3 attackers

Jerusalem – Well-armed militants from the Sinai Desert infiltrated Israel on Friday and attacked a military outpost, killing one Israeli soldier and wounding another. The three unidentified attackers were then killed by Israeli soldiers.

It was the most serious clash along the Israeli-Egyptian border since early August, when militants in Egypt attacked an Egyptian police station near the border and used stolen vehicles to break through an Israeli border fence. Sixteen Egyptian soldiers were killed in that attack.

Border clashes have become more frequent over the last year, particularly since the collapse of the Mubarak regime, which had been a close ally of Israel.

Newly elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has vowed to crack down against militants in the Sinai Peninsula, launching an offensive over the last two months to capture those responsible for the August strike.


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